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flynn-effectAfter watching any news channel for a few minutes, it’s easy to get a discouraged with our society’s perceived level of intelligence. In a world where collective learning and continual development should constantly improve knowledge it sometimes seems like we’re heading in the wrong direction.

However the opposite is happening. The planet is getting smarter, at least according to the Flynn Effect.

If you are unaware IQ tests are designed so that the average score will always remain 100. The problem is that people have continuously gotten smarter over the years.

Research has shown that IQ scores from around the world have steadily gained ever since the IQ test was implemented. The initial study conducted by James R. Flynn in 1994 analyzed IQ test results from various populations over the previous 60 years. His results indicated that IQ scores were steadily increasing at a very constant rate and those scores would continue to increase at the same rate in the future.

How Big Are The Gains?

Improvements in IQ scores are mixed based on regions and whether you’re measuring Fluid Intelligence and Crystallized Intelligence.

Crystallized Intelligence measures what most of us would consider knowledge – vocabulary, math problems, etc. Fluid Intelligence minimizes the reliance on familiarity with words symbols and specific skills. Instead it measures the ability to solve problems without a strong reliance on concepts learned in an academic environment. While both Crystallized and Fluid intelligence has improved over the years, Fluid Intelligence has improved by about one standard deviation, or 15 points, per generation. Crystallized Intelligence has improves by about 9 points per generation.

Why Are Scores Improving?

This is the center of much debate and there is certainly no clear answer, however there are some theories.

The Flynn’s hypothesis states that IQ tests are not necessarily a measure of intelligence but factors that correlate to intelligence, and those factors are improving – abstract problem solving in particular.

There has been a steady improvement in public education throughout the world, and people are spending more time in an educational environment with formal testing. Because most formal testing in an academic environment has time limits, frequent testing with a structure similar to an IQ test is thought to have improved testing results.

A decrease in hunger throughout the world is hypothesized to have a strong influence on improved IQ scores. However it is mostly a hypothesis and little testing is available to support this claim.

IQ Tests Have to Evolve

As populations change the IQ test has to change to stay relevant, and some online IQ testing websites do it better than others. People want to score well on the IQ test and many websites only provide easy test questions with no time limit so test takers can score much higher than they normally would. In other words, these websites are more concerned about their test takers sharing their test results (and their website) than delivering accurate IQ test results. IQ Brain is a great website for those who want as close of an authentic IQ test score as possible. They offer a free version along with more in depth tests for a small fee.

The IQ test uses the population as the standard and the Flynn Effect has shown that overall human intelligence changes over time. Hopefully, for the sake of humanity, the IQ test keeps getting harder.

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